Multitasking our way to ADHD

Recently I was reading about multitasking and was reminded of an organization,  that displayed all the symptoms attention deficit hyperactive disorder, (ADHD).

        Difficulty sustaining attention

        Does not seem to listen when spoken to

        Difficulty organizing tasks

        Avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort

        Distracted by external stimulus

It manifested in a very distinctive ways. In five weeks of engagement, there was not a single conversation with any member of the organization, which has not been interrupted by a phone call, email or text message. That’s right not a single one.

In one interview with a Senior Executive, that was seeking support for an initiative; he glanced at his blackberry and left the room three times during a 90-minute interview. How much support do you think she got?

What does this kind of multitasking cost us? (see my post on the $10.0 million PDA)I mean many people feel it is the only way to get it all done. To that I would ask, “How well is it done?”

A study by the Institute for Psychiatry reported in the BBC reported that Multitasking can affect a 10 percent drop in IQ. Some of us can’t afford that.

Another study by UC Irvine demonstrated that every time we switch tasks, (which is really what multitasking is) it takes 25 minutes on average to re-engage with our original task. How productive is that?

So what are we to do?

1.      Recognize that you are in charge of your own schedule. Not everything is urgent. People can wait to hear back from you.

2.      Use time blocks. I typically block time for major tasks in 90-minute blocks. So for example I will prospect and cold all for 90 minutes. During that time, my email is off. If I need to send a follow up email, I make a note and do that a little later.

3.      If you are, having a conversation with someone let voicemail take that call. Then you can focus on the conversation you are in and the one you make when you return the call.

Take Good Care


  1. John,

    I thought that was a horrific example–not one interaction in weeks that wasn’t interrupted–until I realized that was probably the norm, not the exception, for many of my client interactions too.


  2. It was a remarkable experience. It made me re-examine my use of my phone and what I do with it when I walk into a meeting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *